Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Johnny Modero, Pier 23

Johnny Modero, Pier 23 was a 30-minute radio detective drama series which was broadcast on Mutual Thursday at 8 p.m. from April 24, 1947 to September 4, 1947. It was the first nationwide program for star Jack Webb.

The storylines follow the footsteps of fast-talking, wisecracking Johnny Madero (Webb), who runs a boat shop on the San Francisco waterfront, rents boats and usually drops in for a weekly chat with Father Leahy (Gale Gordon). When investigating a crime, Modero manages to solve the mystery before tough cop Warchek (William Conrad). The supporting cast sometimes included Betty Lou Gerson, Elaine Burke, Bob Holden, Herb Butterfield, Irvin Lee and Herb Rawlinson.

Harry Zimmerman provided the background music. Nat Wolff directed the scripts by Richard Breen, Herb Margolis and Lou Markheim. The program's announcer was Tony LaFranco.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pat Novak, for Hire

Pat Novak, for Hire is an old-time radio detective drama series which aired from 1946-1947 as a West Coast regional (produced at KGO in San Francisco) program and in 1949 as a nationwide program for ABC. The regional version originally starred Jack Webb in the title role, with scripts by his roommate Richard L. Breen. When Webb and Breen moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to work on an extremely similar nationwide series, Johnny Modero, Pier 23, for the Mutual network, Webb was replaced by Ben Morris and Breen by other writers. In the later network version, Jack Webb resumed the Novak role, and Breen his duties as scriptwriter. The series is popular among fans for its fast-paced, hard-boiled dialogue and action and witty one-liners.

Ladies and gentlemen, the American Broadcasting Company brings to its entire network one of radio's most unusual programs . . . Pat Novak, for Hire.

Pat Novak, for Hire is set on the San Francisco, California waterfront and depicts the city as a dark, rough place where the main goal is survival. Pat Novak is not a detective by trade. He owns a boat shop on Pier 19 where he rents out boats and does odd jobs to make money.

Each episode of the program, particularly the Jack Webb episodes, follows the same basic formula; a foghorn sounds and Novak's footsteps are heard walking down the pier. He then pauses and begins with the line "Sure, I'm Pat Novak . . . for hire". The foghorn repeats and leads to the intro theme, during which Pat gives a monologue about the waterfront and his job renting boats. Jack Webb narrates the story as well as acts in it, as the titular character. Playing the cynic, he throws off lines such as "...about as smart as teaching a cooking class to a group of cannibals". He then introduces the trouble in which he finds himself this week.

Typically, a person unknown to Pat asks him to do an unusual or risky job. Pat reluctantly accepts and finds himself in hot water in the form of an unexplained dead body. Sultry females are usually involved. Police Inspector Hellman (played by Raymond Burr) arrives on the scene and pins the murder on Novak. With only circumstantial evidence to go on, Hellman promises to haul Novak in the next day for the crime. The rapid, staccato dialogue between Webb & Burr is typical of hardboiled fiction and is often humorous. Pat uses the time to try to solve the case. He usually employs the help of his friend Jocko Madigan (played by Tudor Owen) - a drunken ex-doctor typically found at some disreputable tavern or bar - to help him solve the case. As Pat asks for his help, Jocko launches a long-winded philosophical diatribe, full of witty and funny remarks, until Novak cuts him off.

Jocko and Pat unravel the case and Hellman makes the arrest. Finally, we hear the foghorn and Novak's footsteps on the pier again before Novak spells out the details of the case for us. At the end, Novak informs us that "Hellman asked only one question", which Pat answers with a clever retort. The dialogue is rife with similes found in pulp fiction. Example: 'The neighborhood was run down - the kind of place where the For Rent signs look like ransom notes.'

John Galbraith played the inspector, and Phyllis Skelton was frequently heard in female roles on the program. George Fenneman was the announcer, and Basil Adlam led the orchestra.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bulldog Drummond

Bulldog Drummond was a radio crime drama in the United States. It was broadcast on Mutual April 13, 1941 – March 28, 1954.

 Bulldog Drummond was "a British investigator called 'Bulldog' because he was relentless in the pursuit of criminals." The character was created by British author H. C. McNeile. In addition to McNeile's books, Drummond was featured in a series of films from Paramount Pictures in the 1930s. Drummond was described as "a polished man-about-town, whose hobby is crime detection and the apprehension of criminals."

Radio historian John Dunning commented, "With his sidekick Denny, Captain Hugh Drummond solved the usual run of murders, collected the usual run of bumps on the head, and ran afoul of underworld characters ranging from radium thieves to counterfeiters." In a 1948 column in the Oakland Tribune, media critic John Crosby called the program "the first of the more successful exemplars of radio espionage and intrigue."

One notable aspect of Bulldog Drummond was its opening (created by producer-director Himan Brown), which "evoked a London ambiance with footsteps, a foghorn, shots, and three blasts of a police whistle." Following the sound effects, an announcer introduced the program with the line, "Out of the fog ... out of the night ... and into his American adventures ... comes ... Bulldog Drummond."

The program was initially set in Great Britain, but after two months the setting was moved to the
United States, thus leading some sources to identify it as The American Adventures of Bulldog Drummond. In another change from the books, the radio program omitted Drummond's wife "and his gaggle of ex-army comrades." He did, however, keep his butler, Denny.

Drummond and Denny were the series' only regular characters. Over the years, Drummond was played by George Coulouris, Santos Ortega, Ned Wever, and Cedric Hardwicke. Actors portraying Denny were Everett Sloane, Luis van Rooten, and Rod Hendrickson. Others appearing frequently on the program were Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ray Collins, and Mercedes McCambridge.

Announcers for Bulldog Drummond were Ted Brown, Henry Morgan, and Robert Shepard. The show's writers were Allan E. Sloane, Leonard Leslie, Edward J. Adamson, and Jay Bennett.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Casebook of Gregory Hood

The Casebook of Gregory Hood was a radio detective program in the United States. It existed in several versions - with different stars on different networks in different years. Hood was an importer in San Francisco who dealt in rare items. John Dunning summarized the show's premise as follows: "With his sidekick Sanderson ('Sandy') Taylor, Hood traveled the world seeking artifacts for his import house. Each item found by Hood had an intriguing history and was inevitably linked to some present-day mystery." The character of Hood was based on real-life importer Richard Gump, who lived in San Francisco. Gump also was a consultant for the program.

Hood was a character with a multi-faceted personality. One website devoted to old-time radio wrote about him as follows:

Gregory Hood was also an accomplished pianist and composer, a self-taught forensics expert, spoke several languages fluently, was an expert in ancient and modern armament, had a military intelligence background, was a wine expert with an extensive rare wine cellar, and was an acknowledged expert in oriental tapestry. He lived in a penthouse on San Francisco's Nob Hill and employed a Chinese valet, Fong.

On June 3, 1946, The Casebook of Gregory Hood began on the Mutual Broadcasting System, replacing The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the summer. Although intended to be just a summer replacement, it continued in the fall, sponsored by Petri Wine. Jeffrey Marks, in his biography of co-creator Anthony Boucher, explained, "The show had originally been planned as a summer replacement for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 1946, but continued for the next year when the radio network had difficulty in reaching an agreement with the Conan Doyle estate." The program had another full-season run on ABC in 1949-50 and also "resurfaced periodically in summer slots."

The show was written by Boucher and Denis Green, who also teamed to write the Holmes show. Marks provided this background:

Boucher and Green did such a good job for the Holmes show that they were asked about writing an original series for Mutual Radio. Radio shows relied on new episodes. Just as TV airs re-runs during the summer, radio shows gave their actors a summer hiatus of 13 weeks. Networks frequently ran original short-run programming during the summer. Boucher and Green came up with "The Casebook of Gregory Hood" a San Francisco-based antiquities expert who seemed to find current day crimes in the artifacts that he dealt with. The Casebook of Gregory Hood was nearly identical to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in its opening: same sponsor, same announcement, same narrator frame for storytelling, and the same music. The narrator stopped by to visit Gregory either in his office or home, and the story was told by Hood. Hood's own Watson, Sandy Taylor, accompanied him. Taylor was Hood's lawyer and friend.

Gale Gordon played Gregory Hood in the initial version of the program. Others who had the leading role later were Elliott Lewis, Jackson Beck, Paul McGrath, Martin Gabel and George Petrie. Sidekick Sanderson Taylor was portrayed at various times by Art Gilmore, Carl Harbord, William Bakewell,  Howard McNear and Bill Johnstone.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Crime Classics

Crime Classics was a United States radio docudrama which aired as a sustaining series over CBS from June 15, 1953, to June 30, 1954.

 Created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott Lewis, the program was a historical true crime series, examining crimes and murders from the past. It grew out of Lewis' personal interest in famous murder cases and took a documentary-like approach to the subject, carefully recreating the facts, personages and feel of the time period. Comparatively little dramatic license was taken with the facts and events, but the tragedy was leavened with humor, expressed largely through the narration.

The crimes dramatized generally covered a broad time and place frame from ancient Greece to late 19th-century America. Each episode in the series was co-written by Morton Fine and David Friedkin, in consultation with Lewis, although the scripting process was more a matter of research, as the stories were "adapted from the original court reports and newspaper accounts" or from the works of historians.

The cases ranged from famous assassinations (of Abraham Lincoln, Leon Trotsky, and Julius Caesar) and the lives (and often deaths) of the likes of Cesare Borgia and Blackbeard to more obscure cases, such as Bathsheba Spooner, who killed her husband Joshua Spooner in 1778 and became the first woman tried and executed in America.

The only continuing character was the host/narrator, Thomas Hyland, played by Lou Merrill. Hyland was introduced by the announcer as a "connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders." Merrill's deadpan portrayal of Hyland provided the welcome note of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings. Unlike the ghoulish weird storytellers of The Whistler and The Mysterious Traveler, Hyland was an ordinary fellow who, in a dry, droll manner, would present a tale from his files, his wry comments interspersed between dramatized scenes. The episodes would typically begin with Hyland inviting the audience to listen to a sound, from drops of rain to horses' hooves, and then introducing the main players and events of his report.